Some of the witnesses who testified before the Commission of inquiry into the politically motivated violence which rocked central Harare on August 1 threw the military under the proverbial bus yesterday by linking it to the deaths of at least six unarmed civilians on the fateful day.
The generals suggested this week that Zimbabwe’s opposition was responsible for the killings.
On August 1, armed soldiers were deployed in the capital, Harare, to suppress a protest against delays in announcing results of the country’s first elections without former ruler Robert Mugabe.
Gunfire erupted and six people died. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa set up a commission of inquiry, headed by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe, to probe the killings.
Despite widely published photos and video showing the Zimbabwean army soldiers firing on people in Harare’s streets, the generals said under oath that they do not believe the troops shot at people
I do not believe that any of the soldiers fired. Yes, they fired in the air, but I do not believe any could have aimed shots at the civilians. I have no reason to believe that one of the soldiers could have shot and killed those people,” said Zimbabwe Defense Forces Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda, during the nationally televised hearing.
The tactical commander of the military unit, General Anselem Sanyatwe, told the commission he suspected “militant” opposition activists who deserted from the army could have shot at protesters, a claim repeated by Sibanda.
When presented with a photo of a kneeling soldier who appeared to be aiming at protesters, Sanyatwe said the man “took that position because he was avoiding missiles that were being thrown at him.”
Some inquiry commissioners and people in the public gallery were visibly stunned by the generals’ denials.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has described as “unsurprising” the testimony by two Zimbabwean army generals who denied that troops killed six people on August 1 when the military was called in to crush protests following the country‘s disputed elections.
Zimbabweans reacted with stunned disbelief to the testimony by two generals who denied troops killed six people in August when the military was called in to crush protests following the country’s disputed elections.